Trigger finger, a painful condition in which one of your fingers gets stuck, is not caused by just one thing. Rather, many things can cause it. To help people better understand trigger finger and get appropriate, timely treatment, Jeffrey M. Jacobson, MD, a Hand, Wrist and Peripheral Nerve Surgery specialist with our Westchester Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine group, has written this very informative blog.
What causes trigger finger
Trigger finger occurs when the affected finger’s tendon sheath becomes irritated and inflamed. When this happens, bending the finger or thumb can pull the inflamed tendon through a narrowed tendon sheath, making it snap or pop. If trigger finger is severe, the finger may become locked in a bent position. Furthermore, prolonged irritation of the tendon sheath can produce scarring, thickening and the formation of bumps (nodules) that impede the tendon’s motion even more.
Trigger finger can affect any digit on the hand. More than one finger may be affected at a time, and both hands might be involved. Women are affected more often than men and diabetics are affected much more often than non-diabetics.
The following factors can cause trigger finger:
- a repeated movement or forceful use of the finger or thumb
- rheumatoid arthritis
- soreness at the base of the finger or thumb on the palm side of the hand
- painful clicking or snapping when bending or straightening the finger which gets worse after resting the finger or thumb
- finger locking in a bent position, then suddenly pops straight
- finger locked in a bent position, which you are unable to straighten
- finger stiffness, particularly in the morning
- tenderness or a bump (nodule) in the palm at the base of the affected finger
How to treat trigger finger
The first step in treating trigger finger is to rest the affected finger or thumb. If that doesn’t resolve the symptoms, a doctor may also recommend an injection of a steroid into the tendon sheath. If the trigger finger does not get better, surgery may be the best option.
Specific treatments include:
- For approximately 1-2 weeks, avoid activities that require repetitive gripping, grasping or the prolonged use of vibrating hand-held machinery.
- Ice or heat several times a day. Many people get more benefit from warm-water soaks, particularly first thing in the morning.
- A splint. To rest the tendon, you can wear a splint at night to keep the affected finger in an extended position for up to 6 weeks. Splinting also helps prevent you from curling your fingers into a fist while sleeping, which can make it painful to move your fingers in the morning.
- Stretching exercises. There are many gentle exercises you can do to help maintain mobility in your finger.
- Steroid injection. An injection of a steroid medication near or into the tendon sheath may reduce inflammation and allow the tendon to glide freely again. This is the most common treatment, effective in up to 90% of patients without diabetes. In people with diabetes, it is effective about half the time. In some cases, a second injection is needed.
- Through a small incision near the base of your affected finger, a surgeon can cut open the constricted section of tendon sheath, relieving the pressure.
To read Dr. Jacobson’s blog in full, click here.